Being that there is nary a drop of Irish blood in my Eastern European Jewish body, I don't make a habit of celebrating St. Patrick's Day (well, save for the fact that March 17th also happens to be the birth date of my longtime friend and fellow snacker--and, I might add, Jew--Gideon). But because traditional holidays are a great excuse to indulge in national cuisines, I decided some time ago that I couldn't let another St. Patty's Day pass without making colcannon. As Wikipedia dutifully informs us, colcannon is a mix of mashed potatoes and shredded, cooked cabbage or kale. In its most basic permutation, the potatoes are mashed with just salt and pepper, and combined with simply steamed greens. More elaborate preparations call for a touch of milk or butter (or both) in the potatoes, and for the greens to be sauteed--possibly with a small amount of bacon or ham--before joining the potatoes in the pot. Whichever way you choose to make it, colcannon is a hearty, filling side dish that's perfect for the winter months--or for providing a solid base for pints of green beer, if that's your style.
I had never made colcannon before tonight, but, as you can see from the above description of the dish, it's dead simple. After browsing through a few "recipes" online--it's more of a method, really--I settled on a slightly more detailed version. I enriched my mashed potatoes with a small amount of scalded milk, and I also sauteed the strips of kale with some butter and a few slices of green onion (you can use any type of onion you want; I happened to have the green ones lying around, and I needed to use them up. Alternatively, some chives snipped into the finished dish would provide a nice allium flavor). From start to finish, the colcannon took about 20 minutes and required almost no effort. Piled high next to two burnished sausages (what's more Irish than potatoes and sausage?), I'd say it made a meal fit for Patrick himself.
Colcannon with Kale
1. Peel and quarter 2 lbs. of starchy potatoes, such as Idaho or Russets, and place in a medium pot. Fill pot with cold water, covering pototoes by about an inch. Set the pot on the stove over a high flame, cover it, and allow it to come to a boil. Drop the heat down to medium, uncover pot, and allow potatoes to cook at a low boil until they are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 10-12 minutes.
2. While potatoes are cooking, strip the leaves of one medium-sized bunch of kale, discarding the tough stems. You should have about 2 cups of kale leaves. Place the kale in a steamer set over simmering water, cover, and cook until kale is tender but still bright green, about 6 minutes. Remove steamer to the sink and rinse the kale in cold water. Drain well.
3. Squeeze all excess liquid from kale and transfer it to a cutting board. Cut it into wide strips.
4. In a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 3 tbsp. of butter over a medium flame. Add 6 green onions, white parts only, sliced, or 1/4 cup diced white or yellow onion. Cook until slightly wilted, about 4 minutes, then add sliced kale. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 more minutes.
5. Drain potatoes and return to hot pot. Add 1/2 cup of milk, preferably not nonfat, and cover pot to allow milk to heat up. Uncover pot, season heavily with salt and pepper, and mash potatoes coarsely, leaving some chunks. Add sauteed kale and mix well. Add two small pats of butter, mix, and taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if neccessary. Serve hot.